Age: 32

Like many young people leaving school, Zoe wasn’t sure what she wanted to do or what type of career she wanted to pursue. What she did know however, was that whatever she ended up doing it had to be food-related.

“I was always interested in reading the ingredients and the nutritional content on the back of packs and I am one of those people who take photographs of their food. I also enjoyed biological sciences, art & design and being practical and creative in my work.

“I found I was attracted to the food-orientated courses and after attending open days across Scotland, I decided Heriot Watt was the best option for me, so off I went to study Food Science, Technology and Management for four years with five other like-minded foodies.”

For Zoe, having organised a work placement between third and fourth year was not only valuable in her understanding of the theory but also helped build her CV before leaving and helped to boost her confidence in talking about food industry processes and procedures during interviews.

“New product development (NPD) was something I developed a real passion for when I was doing my placement but what became very clear early on was that the more experience you can get the better.”

Zoe’s first job in the field was in a technical role for a vegetable producer where she spent three months on the graduate scheme in different departments which included everything from working outdoors with the “field team” implementing a new hand wash system on moving harvesting equipment through to raw materials intake, production (high care) and taste panel learning. As a direct result she was able to understand the different specifications customers have for their products.

“This role gave me great insight into how a successful food business operated and the importance and complexity of a technical role within the food industry. However I was still keen to work in a more creative NPD position and decided to move on after gaining a year’s experience.”

Zoe’s route to Macphie involved the experience and skills she learned from her initial NPD placement where she was able to combine her technical role with working as an NPD technologist developing salads and ready meals for Marks & Spencer and another technical role working for a coffee roaster.

“I believe working hard for your grades and having an interest in what you want to do is so important The fact that I enjoyed biology and science meant it was easy to study hard to get the grades required.

“Depending on what avenue you decide to go down in the food industry, many subjects become relevant – even art & design for creative thinking and packaging design, for example.

“I would recommend biology, chemistry and physics if you want to focus on food science, research or a process engineering role. If your school offers business studies and marketing then this would provide a good foundation for understanding the commercial aspect of the business you enter.

“Building experience across different businesses and industries, gaining transferrable skills and demonstrating them at interview is important in getting the job you want.”

Now working as a channel product manager, Zoe is responsible for juggling multiple new briefs, working closely with internal and external customers to meet their aspirations and timescales.

“I really enjoy being involved in entire product development process from concept to launch.

“I work as part of the “On the Go” and “International” business units within our structure which means I get to work closely with big high street names.

“It’s very rewarding being involved in making a concept become a reality and seeing customers buying, eating and enjoying the product on the shelf.”

Ultimately it was Zoe’s interest in food and science that attracted her to pursue her chosen career. She firmly lives by the ‘field to fork’ ethos and with the UK population expected to rise sharply over the next decade, she is passionate about encouraging more new recruits into the industry which is the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK.